Sunset Heights: The Tallest Building in Rock Island Gets a Makeover

Sunset Heights Apartments rendering

Sunset Heights

Overlooking the Rock River, Sunset Heights stands as the tallest building in the City of Rock Island, Illinois at 11-stories high. Originally built in 1968, it has served the community since as a public housing complex consisting of studio, one and two-bedroom apartments.

Project Background
Owned and operated by the Rock Island Housing Authority (RIHA), in 2015 Sunset Heights was identified as the next property that needed extensive rehabilitation. Since 2004, RIHA and a non-profit affiliate have demolished 163 units of obsolete public housing and invested over $47 million in new construction and development within the City of Rock Island in the form of 186 units of new mixed-income for sale and rental homes. These organizations are helping to create neighborhoods of choice, improving the sense of place and pride for residents.1

Upon identification of the need for an extensive conversion, Sunset Heights was earmarked for the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Under the RAD program, Sunset Heights will shift from the Public Housing program to the Section 8 Project Based Voucher (PBV) program. RAD also allows public housing agencies like RIHA to leverage public and private debt and equity to reinvest in its properties to make much needed capital improvements while also allowing units to remain affordable. 2

Russell was selected as the General Contractor on the $4.8 MM renovation project late last year through a multi-phased hard bid selection process. Construction started in January 2018 on the 11-story rehab of existing 141 dwelling units, common area upgrades and the installation of a new trash chute system.

Schedule Management
As a multi-phased project, in occupied conditions, on a tight schedule – schedule management will be crucial to the project’s success.

In order to expedite the project and adhere to the strict 12-month schedule, Russell’s team took on risk and began shop drawings and submittals, before the final contract was executed with the RIHA.  Additionally, this project is being performed under occupied conditions with several tenants remaining in the building during the entire duration of construction. Russell’s teams, in conjunction with the RIHA, collaborated on a plan to have construction take place on three floors at a time, starting at the top of the high-rise and working its way down. Since many residents are remaining, many will have to move to a temporary short-term unit, until the completion of their final unit on one of the upper floors.

Value Engineering
Before the project even began numerous challenges needed to be overcome, which was achieved through a value engineering process, or offering alternative solutions for the project based on the owner’s definition of value and key project criteria.

After the first bids on the project were solicited, a large gap between the original budget and the bids existed, which would not have allowed the project to move forward. Through a collaborative process with Russell, the designer and the Owner – opportunities for cost reductions were proposed that eventually got the project to a point of moving forward.

Making a Difference
There are thousands and thousands of square feet of tired public housing to be renovated in the Quad Cities region, and today’s public housing customer has changed. According to the RIHA, their properties are starting to attract younger adults and working families. Russell is proud to be a part of this housing revitalization, as this project will create an overwhelmingly positive impact on current residents, future residents and the community. The new Sunset Heights, to be rebranded as Two Rivers Point, hopes to be at full occupancy upon the re-opening of the facility at the end 2018.

Read more about this project:
QC Times: RIHA to improve two public housing complexes
WVIK: Major Renovation at Sunset Heights


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